Late last month, when New Zealand duo Dillastrate dropped their latest single Better Than This, we were immediately immersed in their summery neo-soul sounds.
So fresh off the track’s release, we caught up with the band to chat about how it came together, the current state of New Zealand music, and their upcoming full-length album.
Fresh off the release of their deeply addictive new single Better Than This, we caught up with New Zealand duo Dillastrate for a chat.
HAPPY: Hey, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?
H: Busy! Mostly busy with music stuff, which is awesome. I hate it when I’m just busy with daily bullshit… It’s just music 24/7 at the moment!
TIM: With the album on the way, music is about all we have time for. I’m basically trying to fit in my day job, piano teaching and study around the band schedule, let alone spend time with my very understanding wife… (Love you…)
HAPPY: We’re loving Better Than This! How does it feel having the track out there in the world?
H: It’s kinda surreal… Exciting though! It’s always a mix of the two whenever we release new tracks.
TIM: Totally agreed. You work on this thing forever and you have no idea what kind of reception you’re going to get. I was especially nervously excited about this one though…
H: Yeah, it’s an entirely new feeling with this single…
HAPPY: Could you tell us a bit about the track?
TIM: Our producer Ben Malone wrote the bones of this. (Well, to be fair, the most of it). I remember H showing me a demo of the tune in his car on the way to a gig once and I nearly made him pull the car over in shock – it was that good.
H: Like, yeah, where the fuck did that song come from?? So we knew we had to put this track on the album.
TIM: It just had this infectiousness to it – I couldn’t stop singing the chorus hook in my head. Although it’s quite different from anything we’ve recorded before.
HAPPY: How do you see this new single as being different from past material?
H: We are definitely going in a new direction with this track and with the album, trying new things out. Stepping it up!
TIM: Yeah, with our Black Diamond EP, we basically took four very different songs to our producer and said: “can you make these sound consistent please?” And after his heart attack calmed down, he proceeded to turn them into a gorgeously cohesive release. But with this new single and all of the material on the album, we wrote all of the material together and went in with a more clear vision, so hopefully, that means that the new releases we have coming up are a bit more consistent.
H: And mean! During our writing sessions for the album, we originally had about 45 songs to work with, 29 of which we recorded the drum parts for in the studio.
HAPPY: Lately, we’ve been blown away by the quantities of quality music coming out of NZ. What’s the go? Is there something in the water?
TIM: I think it’s always been there, it’s just been a bit quiet. Kiwi musicians are a bit quiet by nature, not really into self-promotion as a rule. I don’t know what’s happening – maybe someone introduced some cocaine into the water supply and suddenly kiwi musicians have massively bolstered confidence or something.
H: It seems like kiwi music has gone through a few changes lately – there’s a real injection of modern soul, R&B and chill into the music that’s been here forever, plus a rebirth of the Dunedin sound. There’s heaps of exciting stuff happening in the NZ music scene at the moment, it’s awesome to get to be part of it.
HAPPY: Are there particular artists you’re digging at the moment?
TIM: At the risk of sounding like the biggest pretentious wanker on the planet, I’ve been really enjoying classical piano lately for some reasons which, as a jazz pianist, seems really alien to me… I’ve also been binge-listening to H.E.R. and James Vickery lately – amazing new neo-soul artists in their own right.
H: For me, it’s been Anderson Paak, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars. And that new Billie Eilish album! So good.
HAPPY: What’s next for Dillastrate? Any other exciting plans in the works?
H: The album!
TIM: Yeah – it seems crazy to think that we’ll have a full-length album coming out this year. We’ll also be touring to promote the album at some point later this year, plus playing everywhere we possibly can.
H: Yep – an absolute fuckload of touring this year. Can’t wait!
HAPPY: Cheers for the chat!
TIM: Thanks for having us – it’s been an absolute bloody pleasure.
Better Than This is available now. Listen above.